Saturday, July 20, 2024

Producing musicals for a social cause

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With prompt, goal-oriented responses, Vandana Munjal is mastering all the skills that are coming her way. Working actively as a founding member of Theatre for a Cause, an organisation that performs musical theatre to raise funds for social causes, the one who also specialises in mobility aids shares, “There is a common thread that ties up my journey so far. Theatre for a Cause emerged in 2016 when the Azad Foundation, an NGO that provides livelihoods with dignity for resource-poor women living in urban areas, approached our director. Being a feminist organisation, the former one wanted a women-centric play to be staged as a fundraiser and to raise awareness of their Sakha services. That’s how our first professional show was born! Ever since, we have been staging musical theatre in the NCR region as fundraisers for various NGOs.”

On a personal note, she sees this as an extraordinary gift, believing there are few people who get the opportunity to follow their passion, and she got the chance to combine two of hers in one go. Up until then, she had experimented with a variety of fields, from teaching French to a stint in an advertising agency, followed by work in her husband’s family business in the Hero Group. She even went back to school to learn diamond grading to start a jewellery business, which she ran successfully for six years. Moreover, she is also a part of The Shift Series, which conducts talks and workshops to inspire change. “I organised and interacted with leading theatre personalities in this role to conduct workshops for children. I always used various theatre techniques to make the sessions interactive in every sphere. But with no formal background in theatre, I would have never imagined myself acting on stage had it not been for a cause. It was the idea of being able to entertain and educate that attracted me. I believe that the biggest thing one can give to others is their essence, and my essence is in my acting. I am fortunate that I am able to give back to the community for the blessings of a good life while doing what I enjoy the most. Now with my involvement in Hero Eco Med, once again, I am assisting the family in running the business, but the motto behind the company remains, “We care”.

”Delhi has a limited exposure to theatre as compared to other metropolises; theatre as a form of entertainment is not as popular. Elaborating about her reach, she describes, “There are few musicals staged as compared to the West. We are trying to change that by exposing more people to this form. Fortunately, musicals appeal to all, and once they have seen our shows, they always come back for more. Our challenge is that since we are a not-for-profit, we try to keep our production costs to a minimum while not compromising our quality. Our endeavour is to raise as much money and awareness for the NGO as possible. We are fortunate to have a very talented team of actors, singers, and dancers who believe in the same cause. Despite our diverse backgrounds, we are bound by our love for theatre, music, and a common cause. For our upcoming shows, we have a few organisations that are looking at using our shows as gifts of entertainment for their employees to show their appreciation and increase productivity. Unusual times call for unusual solutions, and therefore, in these times of lockdown, when we could not perform on stage, to help others, we decided to launch the Sing for a Cause campaign to spread cheer and assist the NGOs like the Blind Relief Association and Uday Foundation who were working on the field. We are now happy to be back on stage to promote the power of music, theatre, and dance and raise funds for the street children under the care of Salaam Baalak Trust.”

Believing in the power of music and theatre to bring about social impact, “In the past few years I have worked with the Azad Foundation and cervical cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection. Caped is a platform established for the dissemination of information and the creation of awareness about the latest developments in the field of cervical cancer and for cancer screening in the economically weaker sections of society. We staged a musical named “I Have a Dream” based on ABBA’s music for Caped in 2017. The event generated 10% of Caped’s annual expenses. Through social media and offline engagements, they were able to reach 16 lakh people across four shows. The list is endless.”

There are several factors that contribute to her success and uniqueness. She strongly feels, “It is the medium through which she contributes to society—the amalgamation of entertainment and education. A team of 35–40 cast members, including actors, singers, and dancers, rehearses for 3-6 months to prepare the musical. And each one of them does it out of passion for the cause we are supporting.

The uniqueness also lies in the extravaganza that we offer to the audience with live singing, acting, dancing, and a fabulous audiovisual that runs in the background. Musicals have a way of transporting people into a feel-good zone. Our audience always leaves feeling entertained, lighter, and worthwhile because they supported the cause. Being a not-for-profit trust, we are very conscious of not wasting any resources. Money saved is money earned! Despite our restraints, we bring to the stage a genre that is used only by big production houses.”

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